The works at Puerto Antioquia will receive the green light before the end of January and, with this, one of the most important megaprojects of recent years in Colombia will begin.
With an investment of US$672.4 million, the initiative promises to boost the country’s competitiveness and bring production centers closer to international trade.
Although the project has been talked about for several years, 2022 will be key since the concessionaire in charge has now achieved financial closure, i.e., it already has the resources to execute the works.
In an interview with Valora Analitik, the manager of Puerto Antioquia, Andrés Bustos, gave details of the megaproject, the expected schedule and the effects of the maritime terminal on the region and the country.
How was the financial closure of the project?
The year 2021 left us with the best news and that was that we were able to complete the financial closing with the entities we had pending to sign, which were the Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional, Bancóldex and Davivienda.
This is in addition to the financing we already had signed and committed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the global investment fund Infrastructure Partners.
The total financial package amounts to US$393.7 million and, additionally, there are the shareholder contributions of US$278.7 million. This completes 100% of the resources necessary to begin work at Puerto Antioquia.
What does the total investment include?
It includes all the costs and expenses necessary to take the project to the operation phase, that is, construction and operation and maintenance works, associated with the development phase. In addition, all pre-operational, property, etc. expenses.
While you achieved this closure, did you make progress on property, environmental and/or social issues?
Yes, we have been working on all property, social and environmental issues for many years. We had a major difficulty associated with the properties, because some of them were involved in land restitution processes.
This issue was resolved by means of a court order, which became final in August 2021 and, after that, all the signatures with different entities began to be unleashed.
What about environmental licenses and prior consultations?
All the environmental licensing and consultation agreements with the communities around the project are ready. Today we have no limitations to start the works in Puerto Antioquia.
What comes next, then, now that the resources are in place?
The resources will be disbursed over the next 33 months, which is the time it will take to build the port. The concession will last 30 years.
The project is headed by a French-Colombian consortium formed by the companies Eiffage Obras Civiles Marítimas and the Colombian partner is Termotécnica Coindustrial.
Once we give them the order to start, they will begin the 33-month term they have to deliver the constructed port to us. In other words, by the end of 2024 or early 2025, we will have Puerto Antioquia ready and operating.
When will this start-up order be given and with what works will they begin?
The expectation is to be able to give the start order before the end of January, when the 33-month period begins to run.
There are several work fronts that go in parallel. The first activity is the installation and mobilization of work equipment, machinery and other resources.
In addition, it will be necessary to make the access road to Puerto Antioquia, as well as land adaptations, among others.
Specifically, where will Puerto Antioquia be located?
The terminal will be located in the district of Turbo, in the southeast of the Gulf of Urabá. Specifically, it will be near a small town called Nueva Colonia.
Why this location?
It is a strategic point because of the natural conditions, but also because it is surrounded by the entire agricultural sector of the region, which will be economically favorable for small, medium and large producers.
In addition, with the design and the choice of the location, we will be able to have a terminal in Puerto Antioquia that will serve the country’s needs, both present and future.
This means that we will have 16.5 meters deep in the dock area for containers, which will allow ships of 14,000 TEUs to arrive, that is, the famous Neopanamax.
And this will contribute to competitiveness, not only because of the 750 kilometers less that we will have for 70% or 75% of our GDP, but also in terms of international markets.
How much cargo do you expect to mobilize and of what type?
Initial estimates are in the order of seven million tons of cargo per year, distributed in four segments: refrigerated and dry containers, bulk, general cargo and vehicles.
These are the markets we will initially serve at Puerto Antioquia.
What impact will the port have on the regional economy and employment?
This is one of the pillars on which we have supported the construction of Puerto Antioquia. The project is understood by the communities as a trigger for development and they see in it an opportunity to improve their quality of life.
In terms of employment, there will be 1,600 new jobs during construction and some 1,000 during operation.
But, undoubtedly, the network of allies and the characteristics of the region will make it possible to attract new investments, generate new companies and allow existing ones to grow and enhance their development.
In fact, we are already beginning to see developments such as a free trade zone, logistics parks and real estate projects, etc. Overall, we estimate that all of the above will generate some 12,000 new jobs.
The project will be connected in the future with the ‘Mar 1’ and ‘Mar 2’ roads and the Toyo tunnel. What benefits will this bring?
We have not yet realized all that this investment will produce, not only in Puerto Antioquia, but also in roads and infrastructure.
There will be a new logistic axis for the country, which in principle will bring the Colombian Atlantic and Pacific closer, and will make Urabá and Buenaventura 12 or 13 hours away, when today that distance is 36 hours.
Will it be easier, then, to carry cargo from the center of the country compared to other terminals such as Cartagena or Barranquilla?
Yes, it will be between 300 and 350 km less between the center of the country and Puerto Antioquia.